Do your re­search

With so much lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion and so many pho­tos avail­able on­line and in apps, you’re able to hit the ground run­ning when you ar­rive

NPhoto - - Feature -

Damian Shields lives a cou­ple of hours’ drive from one of the high­lights of the Scot­tish High­lands, Glen Af­fric, and in the spring of 2015 he and a cou­ple of friends headed down the mythic glen. How­ever, due to snow-melt and 48 hours of non-stop rain, they were evac­u­ated to a B&B on high ground as the area recorded some of the high­est flood­ing on record. Damian never made it to the glen and the de­press­ing de­ci­sion was made to re­turn home.

“Ini­tially I had de­ter­mined to re­turn at a time of year that would see a good dust­ing of snow on the peaks, with some of the earthy tones of au­tumn lin­ger­ing in the fo­liage at lower lev­els,” re­veals Damian. “I be­gan my re­search on Google, look­ing at images re­turned from ‘Glen’ and ‘Af­fric’ as the search terms. Next, as I of­ten do, I looked up images from the area as pre­vi­ously shot by ded­i­cated land­scape ’togs from shar­ing sites like Flickr and 500px. The im­por­tant thing in all this is for me to build up a pic­ture in my head, a ba­sic fa­mil­iar­ity, of what I might ex­pect to find that would stand me in good stead, rather than just turn­ing up and sac­ri­fic­ing pre­cious time on lo­ca­tion

find­ing my feet. Weather-wise, I will usu­ally look at least three dif­fer­ent fore­casts a week be­fore, a few days be­fore and the night be­fore for ev­ery day I am away.

“This clas­sic view­point is the im­age that had started the whole ball rolling in my head. It’s up there as one of the most iconic vi­sions of a typ­i­cally ‘Scot­tish’ vista, with the clutches of Cale­do­nian for­est zig-zag­ging into the fore­ground left and right, and the back­drop of ma­jes­tic peaks all com­ing to­gether to cra­dle the wa­ter in the cen­tre. The nat­u­ral ten­dency for most pho­tog­ra­phers seems to be to try and cram as much of the view into one frame, usu­ally in a panorama. I had vi­su­alised crop­ping right into the cen­tre of the scene as a more sat­is­fy­ing op­tion and had de­ter­mined on lo­ca­tion, there­fore, to shoot the view us­ing the long end of my 70-200mm. I also thought of how I could sim­plify the scene even fur­ther by get­ting to a spot fur­ther down the loch that would also give more promi­nence to Beinn Fhada, the most hand­some peak of the range.

“Fol­low­ing a slow trudge through bumpy heathered ground off an old rough track, I found an ideal po­si­tion on the edge of the tree­line on the south­ern side of the loch. I was at a good el­e­va­tion where I could look over a line of pines that clus­tered a shark-finned penin­sula of land that jut­ted into the loch. I had timed my ar­rival to take ad­van­tage of a still-low morn­ing sun to de­fine the moun­tains, and I was for­tu­nate that hor­i­zon­tal stripes of still sur­face wa­ter were re­flect­ing the peaks above. I was also grate­ful for the patches of cloud that helped break up the monotony of the oth­er­wise vapid blue sky. I set up my D800 on a tri­pod just be­low the high­est point, loch-side, to give me some shel­ter from a cold wind that might cause vi­bra­tion dur­ing the long ex­po­sure, and slipped an ND grad over the end of my 200mm to re­tain colour and de­tail in the sky. I lin­gered in this po­si­tion for well over an hour, un­til I was sat­is­fied with the frames I had cap­tured, be­fore mov­ing on, happy with the pay-off from prepa­ra­tion and pa­tience – and not a rain­drop in sight!”

Check­ing out other pho­tog­ra­phers’ images of an area is a great way to fa­mil­iarise your­self with lo­cal land­marks

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